Walton: We're Becoming Tougher and Harder to Beat
Thursday, 18th Nov 2021 17:49
Town keeper Christian Walton has confirmed how manager Paul Cook’s new-look squad is growing together into a more robust and battle-hardened unit as they look to continue the improvement that has seen them lose just two of their last 15 games in all competitions.
Progress has been made on three fronts as the Blues have qualified for the second round of the FA Cup along with the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy, while also climbing the League One table thanks to a points haul of 21 from their last 11 league outings.
Walton said: “I think we’ve become tougher and harder to beat, and the results obviously back that up. Earlier in the season there were games where the team went ahead and struggled to hold on to the lead. When you’re not able to do that at this level it makes it all the harder to get results.
“Since I’ve been back in the side I’ve felt that we’ve become more solid as a unit. It starts at the top of the pitch and works its way back.
“The results speak for themselves – what is it, two defeats in 11 league games? I would say we are one of the better footballing teams in the division but at this level you also need to be able to grind out results and we need to showcase that on a more regular basis.
“We have shown teams what we are all about and even in the goalless draw against Oxford on Saturday, in the second half we dominated the game and showed we were too much for Oxford. We were a bit unlucky not to get the goal to win the game but keeping a clean sheet was the most important thing in the end.”
Walton added: “The team spirit here is second to none and it starts with the manager and the players he has recruited. Such a big turnaround in players as we’ve had here could have been difficult but since I’ve been here I’ve been really impressed with how well everyone gets along.
“Yes, there’s some stiff competition for places in the team but everyone, with no exceptions, is pulling in the same direction and hoping to play a part in the club being successful this season.”
It isn’t just the new boys who have impressed in recent weeks, of course, with Janoi Donacien and Toto Nsiala holding down defensive places in what appears to be Cook’s preferred back line and midfielder Idris El Mizouni seizing his chance to impress with the winning goal in the FA Cup first round replay win at Oldham.
Walton continued: “I was right behind Idris’s shot and had a great view of it flying in. It was an unbelievable strike and to be honest I didn’t know he had it in him.
“It was brilliant and I’m buzzing for him because he’s deserved his chance for the work he puts in at training every single day. He’s done really well when he’s played this season but Tuesday was great for him.
“Hard work and a good attitude towards training, plus taking your chance when it comes along, can take you a long way. There’s no real secret to it and we have a manager in Paul Cook who will always give you a chance if you’ve earned it.
“We’re playing a lot of league games and we are still in the FA Cup and Papa John’s Trophy so there are going to be opportunities for players to show what they have to offer.
“Also, it’s not just Idris, Janoi and Toto. Other players have played and impressed, and the competition for places is really healthy. When you’ve got that everyone wants to keep the shirt and make sure they are playing on a Saturday.”
Asked for his view on local youngster Bailey Clements’s recent promotion to the first team, the keeper added: “I hadn’t seen that much of Bailey because he was with the U23s and hadn’t trained with us on a daily basis or been involved in matchday squads.
“I’d heard from the other lads how he had quality and that the club rated him highly, so for him to make his league debut on Saturday was brilliant for him.
“I was really pleased for him as a young lad who had come through the academy to play for the club he supported.
“He settled in really well and in my opinion was one of the better players against Oxford. Hopefully, he can continue his progress at the club and keep doing well.
“It’s great for the club when youngsters come through and a huge moment for Bailey and his family being local as well. It will mean a great deal to them.”
Meanwhile, Walton is keeping an eye on events back at parent club Brighton, who have exceeded pre-season expectations to sit seventh in the Premier League table following a run of just two defeats in 11 games since the start of the new season.
He said: “They started well and when they came up against some of the bigger clubs they turned in some really good performances. I’m delighted for them and long may it continue.”
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